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The Saga of Snake Valley. Facts Drainage Basin – 244,000 sq mi Average Annual Flow – 16.5 maf The Colorado River ranks only 6 th in total volume of flow Provides M&I Water to 24 million people in the US Provides irrigation water to over 2 million acres in the US Total Storage – 60 maf

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  • Drainage Basin – 244,000 sq mi
  • Average Annual Flow – 16.5 maf
  • The Colorado River ranks only 6th in total volume of flow
  • Provides M&I Water to 24 million people in the US
  • Provides irrigation water to over 2 million acres in the US
  • Total Storage – 60 maf
  • 4,000 MW of hydro electric generation capacity
  • Mexico supplies M&I water to about 2.0 million people & irrigation water to 500,000 acres

Compact and Treaty Apportionment

Based on Current Hydrology

(in million acre-feet per year [MAF])

Arizona - 0.05

Arizona - 2.8

Utah - 1.369

Nevada - 0.3

Colorado - 3.079

LB - 7.5 3

UB - 6.0 1

California - 4.4

Wyoming - 0.833

New Mexico - 0.669

Mexico - 1.5 2


  • The Upper Basin supply of 6.0 maf is based on a firm supply during an extended drought
  • It is the position of the Upper Basin States that there is adequate water in the Lower Basin tributaries to meet the majority of the treaty allocation to Mexico and the Upper Basin is only required to provide half of any shortage
  • The Colorado River Compact allows the Lower Basin States to use an additional maf per year from the Lower Basin tributaries

Utah's Colorado River Allocation 1.369 MAFCurrent Use 1.0 MAF UNUSED ALLOCATION.369 MAFFuture use Navajo Nation 81 KAF Ute Tribe Reserve Water (compact) 105 KAF New Ag Uses 25 KAF New M&I Uses 5 KAF Lake Powell Pipeline 86 KAF Total 302 KAF* Balance* * 67 KAF* ADDITIONAL PENDING APPLICATIONS: 400,000+ KAF

additional approved
  • San Juan County WCD 30,000
  • Kane County WCD 30,000
  • Deseret Generation 12,000
  • Central Utah WCD 29,500
  • Sanpete County WCD 5,600
  • Wayne County WCD 49,000*
  • Partial Total 156,100
unapproved applications
Unapproved Applications
  • 250,000 Board of Water Resources (White River)
  • 1,400,000 USBR
50 years ago we asked these questions
50 Years Ago…we asked these questions:
  • How will we ever use 1,700,000 Acre Ft.?
  • How can we encourage beneficial use?
  • Should we consider leasing or renting?
today these are the questions
Today these are the Questions:
  • How will we get by with only 1.369 MAF. ?
  • When we reach full allocation, what about the outstanding applications?
  • How do we get optimum points of diversion?
  • How do we guarantee delivery in dry cycles?
  • How do we keep peace with Sister States?
  • What will Sensitive Species requirements be?
  • Can the legislature refrain from changing rules?

SNWA applications




lincoln county conservation recreation and development act of 2004 section 301 b
Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation, and Development Act of 2004, Section 301 (b)

(b) Rights-of-Way.—(1) In general.—Notwithstanding sections 202 and 503 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1711, 1763), and subject to valid and existing rights, the Secretary shall grant to the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Lincoln County Water District nonexclusive rights-of-way [2,640 feet wide] to Federal land in Lincoln County and Clark County, Nevada, for any roads, wells, well fields, pipes, pipelines, pump stations, storage facilities, or other facilities and systems that are necessary for the construction and operation of a water conveyance system.

lincoln county conservation recreation and development act of 2004 public law 108 424 section 301 d
Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation, and Development Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-424), Section 301 (d)

(d) State Water Law.—Nothing in this title shall—

  • Prejudice the decisions or abrogate the jurisdiction of the Nevada or Utah State Engineers with respect to the appropriation, permitting, certification, or adjudication of water rights;
  • Preempt Nevada or Utah State water law; or
  • Limit or supersede existing water rights or interest in water rights under Nevada or Utah State law.
lincoln county land bill
Lincoln County Land Bill…
  • Residents of Snake Valley approach Utah Legislative Water Task force for Help
  • Task Force recruits Senator Bennett’s help
  • Senator Bennett inserts language requested by Utah into Lincoln County Land Bill
lincoln county conservation recreation and development act of 2004
Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation, and Development Act of 2004

(3) Agreement.—Prior to any transbasin diversion from ground-water basins located within both the State of Nevada and the State of Utah, the State of Nevada and the State of Utah shall reach an agreement regarding the division of water resources of those interstate ground-water flow system(s) from which water will be diverted and used by the project. The agreement shall allow for the maximum sustainable beneficial use of the water resources and protect existing water rights.

be careful what you ask for you might get it
Be Careful what you ask for…you might get it.

What happens if Utah rejects an agreement?

1. A potential State to State Supreme Court action

2. Question as to if and when Supreme Court would accept a filing

3. Apportionment of water rights only

4. Political Backlash from Colorado River States.

5. No interbasin transfer of water from Snake Valley

6. Likely repeal of “Agreement Language”

what positives could an agreement bring
What Positives could an Agreement Bring?
  • 1. Agreed upon division of water
  • 2. Environmental protections
  • 3. Mitigation process and resources
  • 4. Flexible Bi-State aquifer management
agreement timeline
Agreement Timeline
  • December 2005: Utah and Nevada begin preliminary discussions about Utah/Nevada Agreement
  • Spring/Summer 2006: State Engineers conduct inventory of Water Rights and groundwater depletions in their respective States
  • March 2007: Millard County requests that Dean Baker is added to Utah’s Negotiating Team
timeline continued
Timeline continued…
  • August 14, 2009: Draft Agreement released for public comment
  • October 2009: Comment review begins
  • January 2010: Final Draft Agreement released
  • January 28, 2010: Nevada Supreme Court rules that Nevada State Engineer had erred
  • February 2010: Nevada Legislature meets in Special Session feeling pressure to overturn Supreme Court
highlights of utah nevada agreement
Highlights of Utah/Nevada Agreement:
  • Apportions amount of Water owned by each State
  • Proposes amounts for sustainable yield and maximum withdrawl
  • Creates environmental protocol and protection
  • Obligates Nevada State Engineer to include Environmental Protections and a delayed application time frame in SNWA approvals
what is snake valley s sustainable yield
What is Snake Valley’s Sustainable Yield?
  • Several studies have concluded there is 105,000-111,000 acre feet of sustainable yield
  • BARCAS suggests 132,000 available ET
  • Agreement sets sustainable yield at 108,000 acre feet
  • Agreement limits Snake Valley withdrawal to 88,000 Acre Feet
category 1 allocated
Category 1: Allocated
  • Category 1 was created to protect existing rights
  • Allocated water has priority dates prior to October 17, 1989
  • It includes Fish Springs water rights
  • Allocated has highest priority of protection
category 2 unallocated
Category 2: Unallocated
  • Unallocated water has priority dates on or after October 17, 1989
  • Approvals of 1,000 AFY require a hydrologic monitoring and management plan
category 3 reserved
Category 3: Reserved
  • Is only available upon agreement of both State Engineers that Category 1 and Category 2 will not be unreasonably affected
proposed water division
Proposed Water Division

Nevada Utah

Category 1-Allocated 12,000 ac/ft 55,000 ac/ft

Category 2-Unallocated 35,000 ac/ft 6,000 ac/ft

Category 3-Reserved 19,000 ac/ft 5,000 ac/ft

Total 66,000 ac/ft 66,000 ac/ft

agreement protects existing users by
Agreement protects existing users by:
  • Creating procedures to identify and mitigate adverse impacts from SNWA withdrawals.
  • Establishing Interstate Panel to resolve disputes rising between existing users and SNWA.
  • Maintaining a monitoring and mitigation account of $3 million.
The State Engineers will confer as necessary to evaluate water availability in light of new data.
  • All collected data will be made available for public review.

Nevada agrees to hold SNWA Snake Valley water applications in abeyance until September 2019. Additional hydrologic and biologic data may be gathered before any decisions are made.

section 5 4
Section 5.4

Agreement prohibits:

  • Ground-water mining
  • Impairment of water quality
  • Compaction of aquifers or surface instability
section 5 4 continued
Section 5.4 (continued)

States agree to re-consult anytime in the future to redetermine available ground-water supply. If withdrawals exceed supply, State Engineers must act to reduce withdrawals by priority.

environmental agreement
Environmental Agreement
  • Utah and SNWA enter into the “Snake Valley Environmental Monitoring and Management Agreement.”
  • Objective #1 is to understand the baseline conditions for biology, hydrology and air quality.
  • Objective #2 is to provide for a plan of operation and a definitive, binding process for resolving disputes.
environmental agreement continued
Environmental Agreement (continued)

Terms of this agreement become a condition of any water application approval made by Nevada State Engineer.

environmental agreement continued1
Environmental Agreement (continued)
  • Counters adverse effects by avoiding problem initially
  • Minimizes adverse effects
  • Mitigates for adverse effects
environmental agreement continued2
Environmental Agreement (continued)
  • SNWA agrees to participate with Utah in the “Columbia Spotted Frog Conservation Agreement” and the “Least Chub Conservation Agreement.”
  • Expands scope of monitoring to adjacent valleys downgradient and requires air quality monitoring.
utah nevada agreement
Utah/Nevada Agreement:

LIMITS use of Snake Valley water resources 61,000 af (Utah) to 47,000 af (Nevada).

POSTPONES SNWA water right applications before the Nevada State Engineer until 2019.

DEFINES environmental protocol to protect air quality and sensitive species.

INCLUDES environmental protections in Utah as a condition of any SNWA water right granted by the Nevada State Engineer.

PROVIDES a simplified mitigation process for any Utah water user impacted by SNWA.

DOES NOT sell or give water to Las Vegas or authorize any Nevada pumping or pipeline in Utah.

in the meanwhile
In the meanwhile…

Great Basin Water Network et. al. sue Nevada State Engineer. Among other things, GBWN claim State Engineer ignored NRS 533.37(2) which requires State Engineer to take action on applications within one year after the close of protest period.

Suit is dismissed in district court and appealed to Nevada Supreme Court

nevada supreme court intercedes
Nevada Supreme Court Intercedes!

…”we conclude that the State Engineer violated his statutory duty by failing to take action within one year after the final protest date. Thus, we reverse the order of the district court and remand for a determination of whether SNWA must file new groundwater appropriation applications or whether the State Engineer must re-notice SNWA’s 1989 applications and reopen the period during which appellants may file protests.”

snwa re files all their applications january 29 2010
SNWA re-files all their applications January 29, 2010

Pressure is applied to Nevada Governor and Legislature to “fix” the Supreme Court Decision in a special session

nevada legislature doesn t want this hot potato
Nevada Legislature doesn’t want this HOT Potato…

They pass intent language urging the Nevada State Engineer to, “Hold hearings on potential resolutions of the issues presented by the Great Basin Water Network decision…to take all appropriate steps to implement recommendations arising out of such hearings which may include but not be limited to: “convene a special session” or drafting a bill for the 2011 Legislative Session.

until nevada answers some big questions
Until Nevada answers some big questions,

That’s where we are today.